A Brief History of Jack Frost
The Wikipedia article on Jack Frost is very disappointing.
Jack Frost is not really a character from folklore or mythology. He’s really more a turn of phrase. Many sources connect him to a Norse deity named Jokul Frosti, but careful research will reveal a dead end. Namely, Jokul Frosti does not exist. Jokul (Icicle) and Frosti (Frost) are sons – or different names for the same son – of Norse wind god Kari. However, they have no clear connection whatsoever to Jack Frost.
He comes from a long history of personifying the seasons. Frequently someone might refer to Winter or Frost as if they were a person, as Hannah Flagg Gould’s did in her poem “The Frost.” Jack is just a generic man’s name (as in jack of all trades). It's hard to find characters like this from any other season, but in winter there's a wealth of them - Old Man Winter, Snow Queens, Ice Maidens, Mother Holle, etc., etc. There's just something about cold weather that invites this kind of personification.
So here's my timeline on mentions of Jack Frost. Not complete by any means; I'll have to see what I can add to it as I do more research.
1740: In Round about our Coal-Fire: or, Christmas Entertainments:
“This time of Year being cold and frosty generally speaking, or when Jack-Frost commonly takes us by the Nose, the Diversions are within Doors, either in Exercise or by the Fire-side.”
So there's the ancestor of "nipping at your nose," this early already.
7 December 1765: Jack Frost, “To the Author of The Summer’s Tale” St. James’s Chronicle (10 December 1765). (This is just a silly letter to the editor from an anonymous pen, signed Jack Frost.)
5 January 1785: Freeman’s Journal; or, the North-American Intelligencer (Philadelphia) publishes a poem: The Life and Adventures of Jack Frost And his wholesome Advice to all honest hearts at this nipping season. A NEW-YEAR’S SONG. More on this.
1826: Sporting Magazine. “Jack Frost, however, put a veto on our morning’s sport.” The Oxford English Dictionary dates the name Jack Frost to this article, but as we’ve seen, it’s actually older.
1858: Copyright for a book, Jack Frost and Betty Snow; with other tales for wintry nights and rainy days, by John F. Chanter et al. Here Jack Frost and his wife Betty Snow are capricious spirits who freeze everything and kill people.
1861: Jack Frost appears as a fearsome bearded general, bristling with icicles, in a cartoon by Thomas Nast, in Harper’s Weekly. Captioned “Our New Major-General.” It refers to a speech by Major-General Benjamin F. Butler, where he calls “General Jack Frost” “our faithful old Ally of the North.”
1864: The same cartoonist draws Jack Frost again, in an item labeled Central Park Winter.
1872: Hardwick, Traditions, Superstitions and Folk-lore, mentions “The blustering of old Boreas, and the frigid embrace of ‘Jack Frost’.”
1875: Charles Sangster, "Little Jack Frost“. The Jack Frost of this poem has a lot in common with the Jack Frost of Rise of the Guardians - a “nose-biting, prank-playing” creature “capering wildly through storm and sleet,” who is finally ousted by Mother Nature.
1889: In Bates’ poem “Goody Santa Claus,” Jack Frost is the neighbor of the Clauses. (The same poem mentions an Artist of the Autumn Leaves, who might or might not be the same person.)
Now Jack Frost is being associated with Christmas, and that's only going to continue.
1902: Jack Frost features in The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus by L. Frank Baum. (You see what I mean?)
1905: Jack Frost Christmas Stories, by Alix (Alice Brooks). Baltimore.
1909: He’s a character in a skit titled, “An Autumn Carnival.”
1915: Another autumn-themed skit, in Kindergarten Primary Magazine volume 27, mentions Jack. This one also personifies all the months of the year.
1934: Jack Frost, a cartoon short by Ub Iwerks. Jack appears as a weird but friendly little gnome armed with a paintbrush and palette. The villain of the piece is a blue, icicle-bearded Old Man Winter.
1936: Maxfield Parrish, Jack Frost - a picture of a small man (self-portrait) surrounded by painting implements and colorful fall leaves. This was a magazine cover for Collier’s.
1945: “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose…” If you live in America, you probably have heard this song at least five billion times in your life.
The Young Giant - Analysis
The Brothers Grimm collected three thumbling tales, and one is only technically a thumbling tale at all. In Kinder- und Hausmärchen, Volume II, there appears a tale called “Der Junge Riese,” translated as “The Young Giant” or (in more longwinded editions) “Thumbling the Dwarf and Thumbling the Giant.”
Unlike the typical Grimm giants, the Young Giant is sly and clever. I don’t know if he’s less villainous, though. Anyway, he doesn’t begin life as a giant – quite the opposite. The story begins like a typical thumbling tale, with a peasant couple having a teeny tiny son. The hero is called Däumling, in contrast to Volume I’s “Daumesdick” and “Daumerling”. (However, all three are typically translated as Thumbling.)
From the typical beginning, the story sets off a winding path that leads into Aarne-Thompson Type 650A, the Strong Boy. The hero usually comes from an unusual origin. In a list here, you'll find the son of a woman and a bear, as well as the Filipino Carancal, who begins life at only a span tall. From Denmark is Hans the Mermaid’s Son, who is – you guessed it – the son of a mermaid. And Norway's Rumble-Mumble Goose Egg hatches from an egg.
But back to Däumling.
As the story begins, the boy whines and cries until his father takes him out into the fields with him to plow. While they’re there, a giant approaches.
"Do you see that bogeyman?" said the father, in order to frighten the little one into being good. "He's coming to get you."
To their surprise, his prediction becomes true. The giant picks up Daumling, looks at him, and walks away with him, leaving the father frozen with shock. This guy is definitely winning the Father of the Year award and we haven’t even gotten into the main part of the story yet.
"The giant took the child home and let him suckle at his breast, and the thumbling grew large and strong like a giant. After two years had passed, the old giant took him into the woods in order to test him."
This is a very odd note, because the giant is male.
The Grimms’ notes, after comparing this hero to other gigantic heroes of older texts, mention that “Being educated by a giant is likewise an ancient and important incident; all heroes were trained by giants, or skillful dwarfs, as Sigurd was by Reigen, and Widga (Wittich) in the Winkinasage.”
The Raven (Grimm no. 93) also has a brief mention of a male giant nursing a child. I’d like to not that The Raven, exactly like The Young Giant, is a tale from the Leine district, narrated by Georg August Friedrich Goldmann from Hannover.
The Grimms are also ready with other texts where a man nurses a child, specifically citing the Icelandic Flóamanna saga. In this case, the mother is dead, so the man cuts his breast and produces first blood, then milk.
It’s also reminiscent of stories of orphaned heroes being suckled by animals such as bears or wolves.
The Aarne-Thompson motif F611.2.3 is “strong hero's long nursing.” This shows up in another tale mentioned by the Grimms: Kürdchen Bingeling, a Young Giant figure whose mother breastfeeds him for seven years. This long period of breastfeeding causes the boy to grow incredibly big and strong.
So what we have here is the connection of a few different ideas – the hero being trained by a giant; a man or giant breastfeeding a child; and a long period of breastfeeding causing great size and strength. There may be some internal logic—like a man’s stronger than a woman, so a man’s milk must be better, and a giant’s stronger than a man, etc., etc. Or perhaps drinking a giant’s milk imparts some of their nature (I’m reminded of the Sigurd mentioned by the Grimms, who drinks a dragon’s blood and gains powers.)
The giant breastfeeds Thumbling for six years, until he’s no longer a thumbling but a giant himself, strong enough to pull up massive trees by the roots.
"This time the boy pulled the thickest oak tree out of the ground. When it cracked the boy laughed. When the old giant saw this, he said, "That's good enough. You've passed the test." And he took him back to the field where he found him."
The old giant’s motivations are left a mystery. Maybe this was his way of helping. Maybe it was an experiment. Maybe this is how new giants are created. Who knows?
The young giant returns to his father, who as luck would have it is exactly where he left him, back to plowing again. The frightened man doesn’t believe that this is his son, but the young giant proceeds to plow the entire two-acre field by himself without horses, showcasing his strength.
His strength is kind of a mixed bag. He's gone from being useless, to being a little too capable. First he pushes the plow too deep into the earth and almost ruins the field. His appetite has grown as well, to the point where his parents can’t feed him.
Like her husband, the giant’s mother is wonderfully tactful.
She said, "No, this could never be our son. We did not have such a large child. Ours was a little thing. Go away. We don't want you."
The boy said nothing. He pulled his horses into the stall, gave them oats and hay, and put everything in order. When he was finished he went into the house, sat down on the bench, and said, "Mother, I'd like to eat. Will it be ready soon?"
He eats a massive amount of food – two weeks’ worth and more – and is still not satisfied.
Then he said, "Father, I see that I'll never be full if I stay here with you. If you can get me an iron rod that is so strong I can't break it against my knees, then I'll go away again."
The peasant was happy to hear this.
His loving dad eagerly complies and brings back three progressively stronger and thicker rods, but the young giant easily breaks all of them.
“Father, I see that you can't get me a proper staff, so I'll just go away anyhow."
He goes out as a journeyman. First he joins a miserly smith, on the agreement that instead of paying him in money, the smith will allow the young giant to hit him twice. However, on the first day of work the young giant’s strength becomes a problem yet again; he destroys the work and smashes the anvil so deep into the ground that they can’t get it back out. So he gets fired, but not before kicking his boss “flying over four loads of hay.”
This is part of a section that has a tinge of wish fulfillment about it. With his immense strength, the young giant can dispense justice to misers, and the audience can laugh at the humiliating punishments of frustrating and greedy bosses like the ones they face in real life. However, the young giant doesn’t stop there, as we’ll see in a moment.
Now using an iron bar for a walking stick, he travels to a farm where he is hired. This time, in place of money he asks to give the greedy overseer three blows.
At this job, the young giant deliberately makes a nuisance of himself. When other people get up to work, the giant sleeps in for hours and finally eats a long, lazy breakfast. When he finally leaves, he blocks the road with trees and branches. He briefly meets the other workers on their way home with wagons full of wood. He completes his work in record time by just ripping up two huge trees. Meanwhile, the other workers come to the roadblock and can’t get through, and so they have to wait there.
He said, "See, if you had stayed with me, you could have gone straight home, and you'd be able to sleep an extra hour."
He gets through the roadblock and leaves them still there.
When he was on the other side he called out, "See, I got through before you did," and he drove off, leaving them standing there. When he arrived at the farmyard he picked up a tree with one hand, showed it to the overseer, and said, "How is this for a measuring stick?"
Then the overseer said to his wife, "This chief farmhand is all right. Even when he sleeps in, he arrives home before the others."
OK, so this is different. With his parents, he seems almost subdued. In a human-sized environment, his strength and size get in the way. When his mother rejects him, he remains silent and finishes his work. He also announces that he’ll leave even though his father couldn’t hold up his end of the deal. Though he mainly talks about how he doesn’t have enough to eat there, I read it as him being aware that not only is he eating all of their food, but they are terrified of him and don’t want him around. For that reason I tend to read this scene as very sad.
When he works for the smith, he still doesn’t seem to know his own strength, but there’s a new element that he’s being more mischievous, taking out his strength on the miserly. He was at least attempting to behave himself around his parents; when he goes out on his own, he completely stops attempting and just goes wild.
Now, on this farm, he does seem to have a good handle on his own strength and is able to perform his job perfectly – whether because he’s getting better at it, or because he’s back to uprooting trees like the giant trained him. He’s also made the same deal to punish a stingy boss. But now his actions are becoming mean-spirited. He’s taking every opportunity to be lazy and gluttonous, using his strength to hinder his coworkers and mock them in the process. It seems that he would be able to excel if he rose at the normal time, and still return early to sleep and eat as he wished—but instead he opts to sleep in and to cheat and hinder his coworkers.
I’d like to raise the point that the young giant is probably very young, no older than his teens at the most. At the beginning, it has been "several" or "numerous" years since his birth, depending on his translation, and he lives with the giant for six years. However, he’s also specifically referred to as “the boy” (German “junge,” youth).
In many other variants, the hero is also a “boy” or a “lad.” Carancal tells people that he’s too young to marry. Hans the Mermaid’s Son is only six years old, though he looks like an adult, and his adventures are near-identical to The Young Giant’s.
This character is a troubled kid. He’s kidnapped and raised by a being who gives him immense power and then abruptly abandons him. Then his parents reject him and he’s out on his own, and possibly not even a teenager yet. But he has learned that he can get whatever comforts he wants by intimidating people or using his strength. This situation is perfect for him to start growing into a bully.
He works for one year until it’s time for wages - i.e. time for him to hit the overseer three times with his massive fists that can uproot huge trees and crush iron bars. At this point the overseer gets scared and even offers to switch jobs with him. With the giant refusing to budge, the overseer asks for two weeks’ extension, and immediately runs off to discuss with his clerks.
They thought for a long time, and finally concluded that no one was safe in the presence of the chief farmhand. He could strike a person dead just like one would crush a mosquito.
This is a good point.
He should be told to climb into the well to clean it. Then they would roll the large millstones that were lying nearby into the well onto his head. After that he would never again see the light of day.
However, when this occurs, the giant instead yells, "Chase the chickens away from the well. They are scratching in the sand, and throwing little grains into my eyes until I can't see." Then he climbs out, wearing the millstone around his neck and joking that it’s a necklace.
The overseer asks for another two weeks. This time his plan is to send the giant to the haunted mill to grind flour overnight. Apparently there’s just a haunted mill nearby, no explanation needed. The idea is for the local ghosts to kill the giant.
Off goes the giant, dismissing the miller’s warning. That night, a table appears, covered in a huge feast. All the giant can see is the chairs moving as if someone’s sitting them, and disembodied fingers handling the food and silverware. Hungry as usual, and not unnerved in the slightest, the giant joins them and has an excellent meal. Suddenly the lights go out, and then someone smacks him in the face. Cue massive knock-down-drag-out boxing match with a crew of ghosts, that lasts until dawn.
Naturally, the giant is alive, and apparently he has even freed the mill of its curse, so he's a hero.
While the nervous overseer is pacing back and forth, not knowing what to do, the giant comes up behind him and kicks him out the window. The overseer never comes down, so the giant turns to his wife (what did she have to do with anything?!) and announces that she'll have to take the next blow. A second later he sends her flying. So now the overseer and his wife are just sailing through the air, possibly never to come down.
But as for the young giant, he picked up his iron rod and went on his way.
Is this really a happy ending? I’m going to say no. The young giant hasn’t found a home. He’s apparently leaving the place where he was performing his job well and had enough to eat. Is this going to become a pattern of walking from place to place, taking jobs only to beat up his employers? And what happened to the overseer, not to mention his wife, who didn’t even do anything?
The only point I can see to this story is to point and laugh at stingy, grasping people as their money-grasping ways backfire on them. However, the story's implications don't bode well for the hero, and probably point to him one day becoming one of the typical villainous giants who show up so often in fairytales.
I’ve read some pretty thorough reviews of this movie, to the point where I questioned whether to review it myself. But I started watching it, and hoo boy. First of all, I have to say, the animation is technically superior to Tom Thumb Meets Thumbelina, but this is still one weird-looking and ugly movie.
The voiceover explains how a man from a circus discovered a kingdom of tiny people, and stole two small children. This seems badly thought out. I’m not sure how you would take care of a baby that small. I guess people raise baby bats and things like that. But how come he never went back? It’s too profitable to forget about. I need more information, movie.
Years later, Thumbelina’s now a young woman. She’s grown up in this guy’s circus and we see her prepare for and perform a show in which she does acrobatics alongside a trained monkey and mouse. I’m questioning how everyone seated in the audience can really have a good view of a mouse and a six-inch-tall girl performing from that distance. (I think the ringmaster mentions that she’s six inches tall, which is not exactly thumb- or mouse-sized, but we’ll also see later scenes where she is definitely finger-sized, i.e. no more than three inches tall. Continuity is not this movie’s strong suit. In the first scene, Thumbelina switches from nightgown to day clothes to a different nightgown.)
A note: this movie is set in modern times. The show features a King Kong pastiche complete with skyscraper and plane. Anyway, it’s a fairly good success. Thumbelina returns to her dollhouse and we get a pretty good song from her. Not because of the lyrics, though. “My heart breaks into two or maybe three”?? It does remind me of the song in Don Bluth’s Thumbelina. It’s about wanting to find love and ends with her at a window.
Now, at last, we meet Tom, who is fixing a car. He lives with an old man named Ben and three extremely ugly dogs. The two talk about the night he found Tom, and the conversation soon turns sad, as Ben sends Tom out into the world to find his own path. “I’m old and dying. LEAVE. And find love, okay, but leave.” What about the dogs, though? Is he going to send them off on quests of self-discovery too?
Meanwhile, the ringmaster nails Thumbelina’s dollhouse shut and leaves it in the dark under a blanket, on the animal cart. And, 15 minutes into the movie, the animals start talking. I think this is something that should have been introduced earlier. Thumbelina might too, as she seems surprised. Did she know that animals could talk?
Anyway, she KICKS DOWN THE DOOR – you go, girl – and manages to rappel, jump and bounce to freedom. We soon see her seated by a stream, where she briefly encounters a horribly badly drawn frog.
Little does she know that she’s almost right next to Tom Thumb. (Tom’s carrying a compass. He has a compass? There are miniature compasses that will fit in a backpack that size?!)
The next day, Thumbelina keeps strolling along, only to be interrupted by some beetles who follow her and keep insulting her. She boats off in what looks like a sardine tin. Meanwhile, some moles tunneling along at high speed notice her. Tom hears her humming and follows the noise, but he’s knocked off his feet by the moles. Twice.
The two moles return to the Mole King’s kingdom. Why do moles find a human girl beautiful? Anyway, they do, and tell him she would make the perfect bride. I actually have a hard time finding this guy threatening, but he is set up as a terrifying villain with a Hulk-level temper. Part of it is that he’s blind, and actually everyone has gotten sick of him to the point that his entire kingdom now consists of him and just two servants. Strangely, the minions are dead-set on convincing him that he’s still a powerful ruler with many courtiers. One mole switches into a maid costume, but I don’t know why. He literally just ran to the other side of the room and put on a costume in full view. There is no point to the costumes other than an unfunny joke. A minute later, they’re shaking hands with imaginary people and talking to thin air, and the king’s completely fooled.
Oh, and his throne is a shoe.
Elsewhere, Thumbelina and Tom happen to sit on opposite sides of the same tree. Hearing the moles approach, they bump into each other and immediately RUN AWAY. What—but—that’s why they were out looking around! They were looking for others like them! Why would they scream and run away from each other? Tom apparently is thinking the same thing, and turns around to go get her. However, Thumbelina glares at him, and then tackles him. Though her head’s really huge in a couple of these shots, she looks like she’s about to slug him. But she cheers up when she hears he’s also looking for little people. That’s the same thing she’s doing! Then why did you run away and then attack him?!
They’re soon chatting happily with each other about their pasts. They agree to team up, only to then be interrupted by the bugs, who have brought their mother. She thinks Tom’s cute but they make fun of Thumbelina’s name. Tom laughs too OH THANKS TOM
And we learn that our two main characters, who have been bonding after finally finding someone else like them, haven’t even learned each other’s names yet!! They argue over whose name is sillier, she insults his height, he calls her rude, and where is this going? Why are they fighting? The mother bug tells Tom, “I don’t think there’s magic in this relationship.” OH SURE
This is so stupid. Thumbelina has her back turned. Tom’s struggling and grunting as they’re hold their hands over his mouth, but she just assumes he doesn’t like her. She doesn’t even look back before storming off! Tom gets free, runs after her, and tells her she’s his friend. It’s like watching small children interact.
Then he turns the other way as he asks her to come with him. On cue, the moles grab her. And he assumes she just wasn’t interested in hanging out! THESE PEOPLE. The Mole King is smitten with Thumbelina and starts planning their wedding on the spot. Thumbelina refuses because “there’s someone else” YEAH SOMEONE YOU DON’T GET ALONG WITH HALF THE TIME
Tom returns to the bugs, who are bringing him food when they throw in Thumbelina’s shoe that fell off when she was kidnapped. He recognizes it immediately because who else wears Size -60 shoes? He finds the moles’ hole right away and knows what’s going on. Why? He hasn’t even met the moles. For all he knows Thumbelina’s shoe just happened to fall off. But then a huge shadow comes over all of them, they scream, oh dear
As the Mole shows Thumbelina around, she looks in one of the holes and sees a blue bird tied up, so she goes in that one. YOU DON’T KNOW THAT BIRD THUMBELINA STRANGER DANGER STRANGER DANGER
Thumbelina’s untying her when they overhear the moles planning to make “sparrow quiche.” (Aren’t sparrows normally brown?)
Thumbelina jumps on the sparrow’s back and they get out, somehow, through a back way we didn’t see before. The sparrow, Albertine, reveals that she can’t fly, having been imprisoned since chickhood. Those moles are really devoted to their quiche recipe. They’re probably using cheese passed down from their grandparents.
The mole minions pursue them through the tunnels, until they jump up and land in a birds’ nest. The moles, meanwhile, are scared off by a warthog. I didn’t take this seriously when I first read a review. But it is real. There is actually a scene with a warthog. Are warthogs indigenous to this area? Is it just a wild boar? I don’t know. But this is a real scene.
Thumbelina gets all coy about Tom and wants to go back and find him right away. She’s certainly changed her tune. But they’re interrupted when Thumbelina is also abducted by a giant shadow. Cut to her in an odd-looking laboratory filled with sad-looking caged mice. Her bottle is set right next to Tom’s and the bugs’, where they can look over the desk of a creepy little kid who’s preparing cotton balls with ether to kill his specimens. Thumbelina manages to break free and knock the kid out with his own ether. As they escape, she stops to free the mice.
Outside, she and Tom join the procession of mice, who are … suddenly … carrying … food. Huh. The mice thank them and take them along to their village, where they’re greeted by others. These others don’t seem particularly surprised to see them, but do seem to know exactly what happened even though I didn’t see anyone explain the story.
Okay, I want to step back for a moment and look at that weird little kid.
But anyway. Just for fun: compare the circus mouse to the wild mice.
Don’t do drugs, kids.
The mice declare a celebration, and one takes Thumbelina off to get dressed up. Which means basically, “Come into my parlor and I’ll do your hair exactly like mine! MUAHAAHA I mean how’s the weather.”
(Incidentally, the annoying boy-crazy bugs are present, and decide to focus their efforts on the mice. What is it with these beetles? They’ll be extinct soon!)
Out by a waterfall (a standard romantic backdrop), Tom and Thumbelina sing a song. They’re trying hard to make “cha cha cha” romantic but it’s not working. My dad watched one minute of this and declared it worse than the Ice Cream Bunny’s Thumbelina.
With the song over, they’re about to kiss, when the moles (who’ve been spying on them the whole time) grab Tom and somehow tie him up in about .5 seconds. They work fast. The Mole King arrives and demands a dance with Thumbelina, prompting me to ask how well he can actually see, as he’s not crashing into everything whenever he moves. However, he does fall right back down the molehol with Thumbelina. The angry mice converge, prompting the mole minions to drop Tom and flee. Tom and the others begin to plan a rescue mission.
Meanwhile, the Mole King tells Thumbelina that Tom is his prisoner and threatens to hurt him, so she agrees to th marriage. As Tom and friends approach, Thumbelina gets a scene I’ve been wondering about for a while. Namely, she asks the moles why they stay and help the Mole King. Apparently they’re scared of him and don’t have anywhere else to go. This does seem reminiscent of real-life bus, but it still seems odd to me. They get nothing out of this relationship. And so far we haven’t really seen him display any power at all. He’s just been kind of bumbling.
Time for the wedding. But now Tom arrives! “Thumbelina loves me! I think.” Well, that’s stirring.
Thumbelina gives the Mole King a monocle to prove that he only has two minions. Realizing that he’s been tricked, he grows furious, and a chase/fight song begins. Tom briefly wields a needle as a sword, which is a nice nod to the original character, but I have to ask: where did he get that? You don’t normally find needles just lying around. Anyway, he smashes the King’s monocle and the King is now extremely angry and starts hulk-rage-screaming and clawing his way through the dirt, but he also seems to be … quoting Shakespeare? And there are more animation errors with the mole minions.
Our heroes jump off a cliff and are caught by Albertine, while the now-incoherently screaming King tunnels straight out through the side of the cliff and falls to his presumed death. The minions immediately begin fighting over his crown.
Albertini hasn’t learned to land, so they keep flying back through the waterfall, through a cave, and into a strange valley. The bird casually notices a village of little people and decides to crash there. The village is pretty strange; in contrast to the modern world we’ve seen so far, it’s like a step back in time to fairy-tale era, with kings, queens, and a tiny castle in the background. And this is where the movie hits a bizarre skip and goes from quirky modern retelling, to old-fashioned cliche fairytale style. It’s hard to tell what to make of it.
Thumbelina’s locket has been appearing and disappearing through this whole scene via continuity error. Spotting it, the villagers welcome her as the long-lost Princess Maia. Apparently they know long-lost royal family jewelry by sight.
Her parents, the king and queen, arrive to greet her. They immediately introduce Prince Pointy Chin. “OUR LONG LOST DAUGHTER, RETURNED AT LAST! Now, marry this stranger.” The guy seems smarmy but not actually that bad. (As an interesting note: he had a cameo earlier! Watch carefully during Thumbelina’s first song.)
Naturally Thumbelina’s not interested in marrying him, so her parents reveal that this prince is actually a backup (THIS POOR GUY). The lost prince she was supposed to marry was named Horace. Aaaand it’s Tom! How convenient!
Okay, hold up. The parents arranged a backup betrothal because the original betrothed was missing. But Horace and Maia disappeared on the same night. What?! Their daughter was missing, so their move was to work out a backup betrothal, just in case she came back?
“And so, young Chin, when you come of age, you will wed the princess, or rather you won’t because she’s missing and probably dead.”
Poor Chin. But … wait. Did Horace’s parents pick out some other girl as a replacement wife for him, too? And how are there two princes in this town in addition to the royal family of Thumbelina? Maybe they’re just noblemen – but how big is this community of tiny people, that they have a royal family plus two princes?
All the mice and bugs arrive. How did they get there so fast?!? They had to fly! Through a waterfall! And over a valley! I … huh?
And so the movie ends with our happy couple, just married, riding in a carriage procession. Prince Chin has to ride with the annoying bugs. The End.
And Tom never saw the man who raised him again.
So, a few thoughts.
Tom and Thumbelina’s relationship feels shoved in. They’re the main characters so they fall in love. That’s it. Their attachment grows choppily, without much continuity, but at the same time, the moles immediately assume he’s a romantic rival. There was one thread in their relationship that seemed particularly weird to me – namely, his fear that if they actually find more people like them, she’ll find someone she likes better. The running gag of Tom’s short stature seems to play into this. Essentially, he’s got an inferiority complex. Some character development would have been nice, but we don’t get it. Instead, Prince Chin is a quick way to settle Tom’s fears and resolve the romantic plot. Even faced with a suitable, handsome (?), tall husband, the kind of guy she dreams about (as seen in her first song), Thumbelina still chooses Tom because he’s the one she’s come to truly love. Again, with more expansion it could have worked. The lack of development is partly because even though Tom’s name comes first in the title, he’s only the deuteragonist.
Thumbelina is our real main character. The story starts out with her and she’s probably the best-developed character here, with the most clearly-shown arc. She’s the one with the “I Want” song and at the end, it’s her parents we meet. This is her movie.
Overall, it feels like a rewritten version of the Andersen story – in contrast to Tom Thumb Meets Thumbelina, which seemed more descended from Tom Thumb’s story.
The Adventures of Tom Thumb and Thumbelina begins with a tiny girl out of place in a big world. She makes her way into the wilderness, but still doesn’t fit in (and this turning point features a scene on the water, where she interacts with a frog/toad). She encounters bugs who mock her and call her ugly. She meets her proper mate, a tiny man/fairy prince just her size. A mole tries to force her to marry him. She saves a trapped bird who flies her to safety. Mice take her in as one of their own. At the end, she discovers a society of tiny people and her true home, becomes Princess Maia, and marries her proper mate.
The events are shuffled and altered so that Thumbelina’s much more proactive and has more power. For instance, she chooses to go out into the wild, and her royal status isn’t tied to her marriage. She’s a princess in her own right.
Overall, an interesting watch. It’s given me a surprising amount to think about. But I don’t know that I’d really recommend it, unless you’re bored (or doing research).
The Mystery of Jennie June
When I researched Tom Thumb weddings a while back, there was one thing that mystified me - and that was the name Jennie June. This was the name used in the Baker's play published in 1898, and in the majority of advertisements and reviews found as my research.
It was clear how the Tom Thumb name had been inherited from General Tom Thumb and thence from the fairytale, but who was Jennie June? Wouldn't it have made more sense to call the bride Lavinia, after Mrs. Stratton? Another skit gave the bride the thematically appropriate name Lilly Putian.
Maybe I'm overthinking it and it's just a random name that they threw in thinking it sounded good. Maybe, as I initially guessed, there's a connection to the tradition of June weddings. There have been plenty of women with this name. Anyway, I set out to create a timeline, seeking out possible inspirations for the name of Tom's bride.
1853: A book of poems by Benjamin Franklin Taylor, "January and June." I'm not sure of the original date of publication of these poems; they may have been previously published in the Evening Journal.
Anyway, one poem is titled Jenny June/The Beautiful River.
In a twilight like that, Jenny June for a bride,
Oh ! what more of the world could one wish for beside,
Jennie June (Jane Cunningham Croly): A very famous journalist who founded the Sorosis club for women in 1868. Wikipedia mentions that she may have first used the pen name of Jennie June as early as 1855. Whenever she first used it, she seems to have used a few at first before settling on that one and starting a trend of alliterative pen names.
Her pen name soon became a household name, with her columns and clubs gaining popularity. In the 1880's, she edited a series of manuals for ladies, including an American Cookery Book and several books on needlework and sewing.
I found many different accounts of what inspired her name.
However, Croly would have been twelve in 1841, and the earliest I can find proof of Taylor's poem is 1853. At seventy, when she is supposed to have been interviewed about this, Croly may have had trouble remembering the real specifics. However, the varying accounts, as well as the overly flowery style in the Oshkosh paper, make me think that there was some significant embellishment going on. Also, the first-person account in the New England Magazine never mentions Taylor.
1863: – “Jennie June” appears in Beadle's Dime Song Book, copied by permission of Firth, Son & Co. “Did you see dear Jennie June . . .”
Also in 1863, General Tom Thumb got married, and the wedding was a huge media spectacle. In following years, other small performers, like Francis Joseph Flynn/General Mite in 1884, would also have widely publicized weddings. In 1892, of performer Admiral Dot and his wife Lottie Swartwood, it was said that "in their wedding garments they looked more like pretty little children than like a man and woman about to embark on the uncertain sea of matrimony." Perhaps it wasn't just the Strattons who inspired the wedding pageant.
1875-1876: The McLoughlin Brothers Paper Dolls includes a doll named Jennie June - a small girl with several different outfits, sold alongside characters like Polly Prim and Gerty Good for 8 cents; these were part of a series of smaller paper dolls, 5 5/8 " inches tall.
I don't know exactly when this paper doll first appeared; the Uniform Trade List Circular has a mention of the name dated in 1866.
Interestingly, there were also McLoughlin paper doll versions of General Tom Thumb, Lavinia Stratton, and their companions.
1891: The absolute earliest mention I've found of a Tom Thumb wedding in print - hosted by the First African Presbyterian Church. William Dorsey’s Philadelphia cites the Leon Gardiner Collection of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
1892: A song called “Little Jennie June” is printed in Album Melodies by Richard Ferber.
1896: “Sweet Jennie June,” a song by Henry J. Sayers
1898: Thirty-five years after the Stratton wedding, The Walter H. Baker & Co. of Boston put out a play 35 years later called, 'The Tom Thumb Wedding" - “as originally performed at the Union Tabernacle Church, Philadelphia, PA”. From this, we know that there was already a pageant tradition forming; it was just that now people were creating scripts.
Here, the bride is named Jennie June, and this was the name I found most often browsing through old newspapers and photos. This was the name that kicked off a burning question that would only ever torment one single person in history.
However, at the time, there were other scripts bopping around. Jennie June's chief rival seems to have been Lillian Putian Midget or simply Miss Midget. Again, this name seems less random than Jennie June. People would have gotten the reference to Gulliver's Travels; Tom Thumb was often compared to the people of Lilliput, and at their wedding, General Tom Thumb and his bride were headlined as "The Loving Lilliputians." (Speaking of General Tom Thumb, in Ohio in 1957, there was a "Mock Marriage of Tom Thumb and Miss Lavinia Warren."
The earliest mention of Lillian I could find dates to 1901 in the Oklahoman, with a facetious wedding announcement. The writer was clearly having fun with references, as there's a mention of their address at "Gullivar Avenue."
In 1911, a copyright was issued for "The Marriage of Miss Midget," or "The Marriage of the Midgets, or The Tom Thumb Wedding," written by May Burnworth. It was renewed in 1914. This was the Lillian Putian version - not the Bakers Plays version, though it usually bore the same name. Here, in a brochure filled with glowing reviews, at the end there is a stern "WARNING!!" All public performances must be under the direction of C. A. Rose, of the Baxter Printing Company, Kansas City, MO.
(Incidentally, I found a mention in an 1914 Illinois Newspaper -
Still, that warning is pretty strong. In this reprint of their play, Bakers' puts up a bit of a defense.
In the meantime, there were some odd blends of the two brides' names. In an announcement in 1915, Mr. and Mrs. Lyttle Smalle Lilliput announced their daughter Jennie June's wedding. And in 1926, the bride was Miss Jennie June Midget.
However, ultimately it seems to me that the Baker play and Jennie June have lasted longer. At least, in this day and age, I can easily track down the Baker play online, while I'm at a loss for finding any others. And references abound - for instance, there was a skit called "Tom Thumb's First Wedding Anniversary" by Donald V. Hock, published in 1934, with Jennie as the wife.
Anyway, back to the mystery at hand. Namely - who is Jennie June?
Maybe the writers thought of the little paper doll; maybe it was inspired by someone's copy of a Jennie June manual for ladies; perhaps they remembered Taylor's poem with the line "Jennie June for a bride." But I'm guessing it was just a random name that the writer found cute - most likely something born in the original Union Tabernacle Church skit cited by Baker's Plays.
Researching folktales and fairies, with a focus on common tale types.